SportsRatings 2011 College Football Pre-season Top 120
|OREGON DUCKS (Pac-12 #1; North #1)
|Record: 12-1||Strength:#1 Success:#3 Overall:#2|
|AP #3, USA #3||Bowl: Lost to Auburn 22-19 (BCS Title)
|Record: 11-1||Picks: Lindy's #3; Athlon #3; Steele #3
|AP #3, USA #3
||Bowl: BCS Championship Game
Seems like everybody—AP, USA, Lindy's, Athlon, and Phil Steele—agrees that Oregon is #3 this year, but we have them #1.
|'10 Scoring Offense: #1 (raw) #1 (adjusted)|
|'11 Projected Scoring Offense: #1|
Oregon's offense can't help but lose some of last year's steam—yet it still ranks #1 in the nation.
|'10 Passing Rank: #39 (raw) #30 (adjusted)||'10 Sacks Allowed (adj.): #2|
|'11 Projected Passing Rank: #44||'11 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #3|
When Jeremiah Masoli transferred from Oregon last year after being suspended, he looked like the missing piece of the puzzle that could take Oregon to the national championship game. Without him they just didn't look quite good enough. But Darren Thomas took over and played every bit as well as Masoli. Thomas threw for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns with 9 interceptions, completing 61% of his attempts, all number that are actually better than Masoli's. Those numbers will be hard to repeat despite a year under his belt. Key receivers Jeff Maehl (1,076 yards, 12 touchdowns) and D.J. Davis (470 yards) are gone. The next five are back and all had over 100 yards, including starting tight end David Paulson (418) and WR Lavasier Tuinei (396), but the loss of Maehl's nose for the ball hurts. There will also be more than 10 sacks this year, even if the line stays strong. Plus, perennial backup Nate Costa (286 yards last year) departs, leaving no experience if Thomas is injured. All these factors lead to a necessary downgrade in expectations for the Oregon passing game.
|Rushing||'10 Rushing Rank: #4 (raw) #5 (adjusted)||'11 Projected Rushing Rank: #3|
LaMichael James finished 3rd in the Heisman voting last year for his 1,731 yard season where he had 21 touchdowns. He wasn't the only Duck that could run—Kenjon Barner burned defenses for 551 yards a mid-season injury. QB Thomas had 486 yards—not quite what Masoli did, but good enough. They do lose Remene Alston's 356 yards and QB Costa's 138, but WR Josh Huff added 214. It seems that on Oregon everyone can and will run the ball. The offensive line is bound to be a bit weaker as three starters are gone—Jordan Holmes, Bo Thran, and C.E. Kaiser. Returning starters Mark Asper and Carson York form the basis of the new line with half-time starter Darrion Weems. James and Barner are an incredible 1-2 punch and Thomas adds a great, built-in wildcat ability. Last year's production will be hard to match and even as they go up to #3 our projection for yardage declines, but only slightly.
|'10 Scoring Defense: #12 (raw) #6 (adjusted)||'10 sacks: #16||'10 picks: #6|
|'11 Projected Scoring Defense: #9||'11 sacks: #40||'11 picks: #5|
|'10 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #25 Pass Defense per-game: #41 Per-attempt: #1|
The losses to the Duck defensive line are big: Kenny Rowe (7 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss), Brandon Bair (13 tackles for loss, 8 pass breakups), and Zac Clark (4 sacks + 5.5 tackles for loss). Terrell Turner returns for his senior year. At linebacker Josh Kaddu is the only one back as Spencer Paysinger and #1 tackler Casey Matthews depart. With only 2 out of the front seven returning, last year's solid pass rush will be a thing of the past and the top 25 rush defense might fall to around average. The secondary will be one of the best in the country, however; it already was last season, and three starters are back: John Boyett (9 pass breakups, 5 interceptions), Eddie Pleasant, and Cliff Harris (17 pass breakups, 6 interceptions). The defense loses a lot but the bulk of the 2nd and 3rd string return so it will still be very good; the issue is whether teams will be able to run on the Ducks and just ignore the pass option.
Kicking Game: Oregon has their punter, Jackson Rice (42.3 yard average), back along with kicker Rob Beard, who made 10 of 13 field goals.
Return Game: Oregon's return game was the best in the nation. Cliff Harris averaged a whopping 18.8 yards per return, aided by an incredible four touchdown returns and Kenyon Barner had another, giving Oregon five on the year. On kickoffs, Josh Huff averaged an impressive but much more standard 24.7 yards.
Coaching/Recruiting 2011 Recruiting Rank: #13 2010 Recruiting Rank: #11
Oregon has their 2nd in a row near-top-ten class, though the first one should be docked for Lache Seastrunk who transferred to Baylor. Seastrunk's recruitment has become an issue as head coach Chip Kelly authorized payment to a pseudo-agent of Seastrunks, ostensibly in return for scouting information. But on to this year's class: the top recruit—as touted based on high school play—is certainly De'Anthony Thomas, a cornerback/running back from Los Angeles. After spring ball, that honor might go to tight end Colt Lyerla.
Strictly speaking, Oregon only four bowl teams last year. But add in 6-6 Arizona State and 8-5 USC, and half the team's schedule is very tough. And that doesn't even count the road win at Cal, one of the toughest places to play last season. And Oregon State, who had the misfortune of playing Oregon, Stanford, TCU, and Boise State—all arguably top five teams—in the same year.
The truth is, the Pac-10 was one of the best conferences last year. Oregon's dominant wins over Tennessee, USC, Washington, and particularly Stanford, showed how good the team was. The offense was off the charts much of the time and ranks as one of the all-time best scoring offenses. The defense ranged from average to very good with no terrible lapses despite the demands put on it by a high-powered, fast-scoring offense.
For almost all of the year, Oregon was the best team in the nation. Auburn wasn't close until nearly the end of the regular season, and by the time they played, the Tigers were a field goal better than the Ducks. The trouble with Oregon was that they didn't improve over the course of the year, while Auburn did by leaps and bounds.
Oregon 2011 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 12-0 Cume: 11-1 Bowl eligible: 99.9%
2011 Outlook The first game is one of the most important games of the year for the Ducks, and Cliff Barnes will be unavailable; his interception threat, and punt return threat, is tangible and the loss is bad news for Oregon. But LSU is having personnel problems of their own, too, so it should all even out.
Assuming the Ducks roll through the rest of their schedule until November, we find them against Stanford in a game that's essentially a semi-final for the national championship (as it was last year, in retrospect). The Ducks have to travel to Stanford which really puts the outcome in doubt. We have them winning—barely—as we have them winning all their other games and going 12-0. The Pac-12 title game would be a formality, probably against ASU since USC isn't eligible. Other conferences have had powerful contenders who have stumbled in conference title games in the past, however.
But if they make it though that the Ducks will be in the BCS championship game again. And they'll probably face another SEC team: Alabama. This time it would be in New Orleans, giving the Tide some measure of a home field advantage. And even more than last time, Oregon's offensive and defensive lines would be put to the test. Even though they're our #1 team by some margin, they just don't match up well against Alabama, and they'd have the same problems that they did against Auburn. Chip Kelly would need to come up with a game plan to mitigate some of these issues for Oregon to win, but since they're our #1 team we look for Oregon to break the SEC's reign of dominance and become national champs for the 2011 season.